Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen on Friday said South Africa had entered a new era of coalitions and cooperative governance, which called for maturity among parties and politicians.
Steenhuisen said the recently concluded local government elections had ushered in an era of a “healthy and truly multiparty democracy” due to the ANC’s poor showing at the polls.
“The days of operating in political silos are over. The sooner we can figure out who our allies are in this mission of building better cities, stronger and safer towns and communities – the better off everybody in our country will be,” Steenhuisen said.
He was speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg at the DA’s headquarters, Nkululeko House, following a governance workshop with its 27 mayors across the country.
Steenhuisen said the local elections, which saw the DA emerging as the governing party in Gauteng’s three metros and the ANC relegated to the opposition benches, would go down as a watershed moment in South Africa’s history as a democracy.
“What this means is that not just our party, but indeed the whole country is going to get a whole lot better over the next five years at collaborating and working together and finding each other,” he said.
‘Brand new future alive with possibilities’
The DA leader said the significance of the ANC’s electoral losses, after its support nationally dipped below 50%, was yet to fully sink in.
“In short, the past month has seen our country step off the edge of a quarter of a century of one-party dominance and into a brand new future, to borrow that well-worn slogan, that is alive with possibilities.”
While the DA was thrilled to be governing Gauteng’s hung metros, thanks to unsolicited votes in council from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and ActionSA, Steenhuisen said they were mindful of the enormous challenge ahead, especially when it came to passing budgets and other council decisions.
He said the DA is going to have to “quickly establish good working relationships with our new co-governing parties”.
Over the next five years the DA would do all they could to foster a productive and mutually respectful environment with other parties, Steenhuisen said.
“Having been through similar scenarios in both Johannesburg and Tshwane after the previous municipal elections [in 2016], we know only too well how precarious such minority governments can be.
“But this will not deter us from our commitment to the people of these towns and cities, and it will not cause us to compromise our principles as a party in any way,” he said.
“We owe it to the millions of residents in these cities and towns, and to every voter who made it possible to remove the ANC there, to prove that multi-party democracy works for them.”
Steenhuisen said the DA would soon publish all their coalition agreements on their website with various parties once they have been completed and signed.
“You can already access some of the completed coalition agreements on our website. I also want to point out that our talks with other parties, who haven’t signed the coalition agreements, are still ongoing.
“We’re reaching out to these parties in good faith and with humility as we try to establish majority coalitions in these hung councils,” he said.